By Dayo Adesulu
The seemly stable academic session enjoyed by universities in the past few years may soon be distorted by a prolonged strike if the Federal Government fails to address some grey areas affecting the sector, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has warned.
ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, on Monday in Lagos said: “To date, several aspects of the 2009 agreement the Federal Government freely entered into with ASUU are yet to be implemented.”
It would be recalled that in an effort to cause the Federal Government to fully implement the agreement, the Union embarked on strike in 2012 and 2013 which led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding towards effective implementation of the agreement.
Speaking on Earned Allowance, he said, “it was agreed that the Implementation Monitoring Committee, IMC, of the 2009 Agreement shall monitor and verify the level of payment already made from the N30 billion released by the Federal Government and report back on the exact situations in the universities on this matter.”
He disclosed that of the N30 billion disbursed, only about N13 billion went into partly settling the claims of academic staff in the universities, leaving behind a huge amount to be settled by government.
According to him, the inability of the government to honour and fully implement these aspects of the 2013 MoU is generating an unprecedented level of agitation on our campuses
“The refusal of government to release the outstanding balance of N128,250 692,596.47 billion, almost three years after the signing of the MoU, is a clear breach of the MoU,” he said.
Breach of MoU
Ogunyemi explained that the non-payment of Earned Academic Allowances is also a sore point which the IMC had worked on, apart from other contentious issues. He posited that government’s failure to address the serious problem of failure to pay Earned Academic Allowances is a violation of the right of ASUU members to the validly signed agreement.
“It is unacceptable that this government has turned a blind eye to the matter, the Union totally rejects this attitude by government,” he said.
On the NEEDS Assessment Intervention, he maintained that based on the ASUU-FGN MoU of November 2013, Nigerian universities required one trillion, three hundred billion naira (1,300,000,000,000) only for the revitalization of the universities in Nigeria in order to favourably compete with other universities around the world.
The costing, according to him, was arrived at after the Federal Government conducted a Needs Assessment of public universities in July, 2012.
“As we address you, government is in arrears of six hundred and five (N605) billion naira as at the third quarter of 2016,” he said.
He lamented that at the moment, all Nigerian universities are in a state of serious funding crisis, adding that budgetary allocation to education has drastically dropped from 11% in 2015 to 8% in 2016.
He explained that this situation has scuttled the smooth process of revitalization of the universities which started in 2013. “It has led to several abandoned projects in the nation’s universities. This is unacceptable to our Union and must be addressed to halt the deterioration of facilities in Nigerian universities.
“The 2009 ASUU-FG Agreement provides for a periodic review after every three years. In fact, all things being equal, this would have been undertaken in 2012 and with another review done in 2015. However, government’s apparent reluctance to set up its renegotiation team for the review of the 2009 agreement, as consistently requested by the Union since 2012, is getting our members increasingly worried and frustrated. Government should move to douse the tension on our campuses otherwise ASUU should not be blamed in any way, for consequences of government’s failure to honour and renegotiate the 2009 agreement.”
Meanwhile, ASUU also made it clear that with the introduction of the Treasury Single Account, TSA, the universities have found it impossible to draw research grants.
“The policy has made it impossible for universities to draw research grants, run programmes based on endowment funds and transfer funds earmarked, as calls for government to exempt universities from the TSA regime, have fallen on deaf hears. ASUU will go to any length to resist the continued implementation of TSA in our universities.”
He also vowed to resist the ongoing efforts of government to jettison its funding university staff schools as part of the welfare component of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement .
According to him, the correct thing to do is to wait for the next round of negotiations or invite ASUU to discuss the matter if there is any justifiable reason to repudiate our agreement on university staff schools.
He equally lamented that some of the state governments that purportedly found it difficult to fulfill their obligations towards their existing universities have gone ahead to establish new universities under different guises.
Ogunyemi who cited Ondo, Edo and Bayelsa states as examples, said the governors established more state universities at the expense of adequate infrastructure in the existing ones.
The professor also noted that for upward of three months, while the staffers at two older universities at Akungba and Okitipupa have not been paid their salaries, Governor Mimiko went ahead to establish a third university in his home town.
In the same vein, he pointed out that Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who failed to fund Ambrose Alli University, also went ahead to establish another university in his home town. Also, in Bayelsa State, Governor Seriake Dickson went ahead to rush through a bill within 24 hours, establishing another university in his home town at a time workers at the Niger-Delta University had not been paid for five months.
He urged the National Universities Commission, NUC to stop licensing more state universities especially where a state is struggling to fund the existing ones. “Owner states should be compelled to domesticate appropriate national legislations regarding the governance and running of universities to ensure global best practices,” he added.